Do You Love a Body, or Something More?

love beyond physical beautyYour body is just a car, the vehicle for your spirit here in the Now. It is part of you, but it is not the entirety of You, nor does it define who you really are. When you criticize your body, or hate your body, you are projecting self-hatred at something that only exists to shelter and serve you for a little while. Body hatred is externalized self-hatred, and that is something we must heal.

That being said, what happens when you love another soul? What is it that you love about your life partner? Is it just their body? You may find their body attractive or desirable, but is that the entirety of your love for them? Hopefully not. Is it just the way their eyes twinkle, the funny way they laugh at dumb jokes, or the way their hair curls just so? How deep does your feeling go?

When you begin to examine what it is you love about another person, it can be difficult to separate the body—the vehicle—from what you love. And certainly, the body is part of the whole person, although not as important a piece as we tend to make it. So you probably can’t separate their smile, that little crook in the nose, or whatever it is about them that makes them so endearing to you. But it goes so much deeper than that.

It is a fact that some incredibly “beautiful” people become less attractive as you get to know them. Personality and a kind heart matter a great deal. Likewise, some people who may be deemed homely may be the most attractive people in the room simply because of who they are and how they treat others. That gap in the teeth becomes endearing because you love the person, even if you don’t grow to love that person because of the gap in their teeth.

So many people struggle with relationships, I believe, because they spend so much time looking at the outer package that they do not recognize that the inside simply does not make a good match for them. I have known many couples who attracted each other on the basis of appearance and sexual attraction, yet they grow apart because they don’t really have any common interests. Instead of being best friends, they effectively live separate lives that only intersect in the shared world of their offspring or their physical residence.

Mistaking sex for love is something that every teenager manages to do. Hopefully, they learn that hormones and sexual attraction, while intense, do not in themselves form the basis for a relationship. This is the most shallow of all relationships, because it is only about love of the physical form. We all have a crush on beautiful or handsome people at some time in our lives, and that crush doesn’t require us to know them as a person at all. My childhood crush on David Cassidy was instructive and harmless, and if I had met him, I might not have liked him at all. Such is the way of crushes.

My first real boyfriend was also the product of mutual attraction. As such, it only lasted three months. As we came to know one another as people, we realized we had nothing in common. It fell apart pretty quickly. “Sam” was still the same good-looking fellow that I had swooned over initially, but by the end of our time together, I had lost my desire to gaze into those handsome hazel eyes. He was not his body; his body just carried him around. Likewise, I grew less attractive in his eyes.

Everyone I love is beautiful to me, even if the rest of society doesn’t see it. I love my wife’s slightly crooked nose and smile. I love her differently abled body, which works very differently than most. I love all of the flaws that my family members worry and obsess over, as though they were personal failings, somehow. Which they aren’t. Bellies, baldness, extra pounds, who cares? We are all aging gracefully if we simply move through it with grace. Ahnna’s hair is a beautiful white; I see a few strands of gray in my own hair, and I welcome them. I have a mother’s belly, complete with stretch marks, and they are just a part of the story of my life.

Every body tells a story. Here is the scar where I fell off my bicycle at age 7. Here is the scar where a dermatologist did a terrible job of removing a mole. Here are the stretch marks. Here are the crow’s feet and the laugh lines. Here is my left knee, which suffers from too much high-impact aerobics in my 20s.

I was raised by a woman who was critical and obsessed over physical beauty, so I used to be pretty hard on my own form. I can now honestly say that when I look in the mirror, I see a beautiful woman staring back at me, stretch marks, scars, wrinkles, and all. I am grateful for my wonderful body, which has served me so well. And I recognize that I am not this form. I am more than this form. I transcend this form, and one day I will step out of it and move on to the next thing. It is not me, but it is part of me today.

What is it you love about your beloveds? This is a question worth asking. You will find that very little of the things that truly matter about them have to do with their bodies. And you may find reasons to love them more deeply than you even imagined you could. In the process, you may find that you find reasons to love yourself more deeply as well.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the beholder may not be capable of perceiving the beauty that exists in all things.
~Asha Hawkesworth

Everything is beautiful in its own way, as the song goes. And so it is. The happiest person on earth can see beauty everywhere, and in all things. You are the beholder, and you can change the way you perceive the world—and therefore judge it. When you understand that everything is beautiful and perfect just as it is, there is no need for judgment, of yourself or others.

Thoughts About Chaz Bono’s Journey

Photo of Chaz Bono courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Chaz Bono courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Chaz was on Oprah today, and the film, “Becoming Chaz,” premieres this week on the OWN network. Chaz and I are the same age, and I have always felt a connection with him that I could not explain.

When I was a kid, I was a serious Sonny and Cher fan. I had the albums. I knew all the words. And I loved the “Sonny and Cher” show. At the end, of course, little Chastity would appear in ruffles and bows, held in her glamorous mama’s arms. There was something sad about her, but I didn’t identify it that way then. I didn’t have the emotional understanding. If I had, I might have identified my own internal sadness, which seems so terribly out of place for a three- or four-year-old.

Over the years, Sonny and Cher divorced, and Cher’s subsequent romances enlivened the pages of the tabloids. She, too, had to figure out who she was. She had to grow up.

We didn’t see much of Chastity until she came out as a lesbian. Somehow, this didn’t surprise me. It took many more years before I would come out, even to myself. When I did, however, I had to wonder about that kinship I felt with little Chastity. Maybe that was it? My gaydar was functioning at three?

A few years ago, Chastity Bono co-authored a book called Family Outing, which both Ahnna and I read. This lesbian thing was new to us, and we were still coming to grips with our own self-realization. Some aspects of Chastity’s journey—the mother-daughter conflict—were similar to my own. Chaz is lucky, though, that Cher is able to work on her issues and try to be there. My own mother, bless her, is just not capable of seeing beyond her own fantasy world. In my mother’s reality, I am not a lesbian, but I am “doing all this” (living my happy life) just to bug her.

It is interesting to me that Chaz has had gender reassignment surgery. I can actually relate, although I am content in my female body. There were a number of years when I was a child that I wished I had been born a boy. First, my father clearly would have preferred that. Second, even at a young age, I could see that boys had more privileges than girls did. They had more freedom. There was no double standard. They could be intelligent and opinionated without repercussions. And third, I got along better with boys than with girls.

The only close girl friend I had in school was in middle school and junior high, and in retrospect, that was my first romantic relationship. Neither of us wanted to see this or admit to it—in spite of the taunts from other school kids, who called us “gay” and called me “Gayla.” We denied these accusations vehemently, as an act of self-preservation. Eventually, though, this girl friend dumped me unceremoniously, and I became the target of her own inner guilt. Along with the other girls in my class, she taunted and bullied me for the entire eighth grade year, which really did break my heart. It was the loneliest year I had in school, and if it weren’t for my guy friends, I wouldn’t have had any friends at all.

After that, I learned better how to “behave,” and I dropped the tomboy clothes, wore way too much makeup, and curled and sprayed my hair. (It was the 80s, after all.) I attempted to do what girls are supposed to do. I had one boyfriend the entire time I was in high school, for about two months. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t attract boys. I knew I was attractive enough, so what up? Looking back, I think I scared off most men because I simply didn’t behave the way I was supposed to. I could dress the part, but I sure couldn’t act it. I would not dumb myself down for anybody, and I sure didn’t let the boys dictate my likes and dislikes. These apparently were not attractive features in a woman. Really, I think I just acted too much like a man for their comfort.

When I was about thirty, some of my own gender confusion began to make sense, however. I went to a channeler who informed me that energetically I was about 75% masculine energy and 25% feminine energy; most people are closer to 50/50. She also told me that I had spent many, many more lifetimes here as a man than as a woman. Ah, Grasshopper, now I see. This fit in with my own memories. I knew that my most recent lifetime had been male, and now I knew that I had spent most of my time in masculine form because, well, I was mostly masculine energy.

It took a few more years for me to understand where the extra feminine energy had gone. Not everyone has a twin soul (which is okay—it’s not an indication of your worth if you don’t), but I did. And when I found her, well, she was about 75% feminine energy and 25% masculine energy—literally, my other half. So here we were, together again.

In the first year or so of our relationship, I felt some pretty strong gender confusion. We had been together so often as male/female, that being with her again made me feel decidedly masculine. It was an odd feeling. Frankly, I didn’t know what to do with it. It did seem to subside over time, however, and I began to feel comfortable with having a female form again. When I got pregnant with our first child and gave birth to her, I finally felt some peace about being female. It was the first time I could really embrace it. After all, without it, my precious daughter would not be here.

Still, in many ways, I think Ahnna and I behave sort of like man and wife. It’s funny:  people will look to me first the way some people look first to the husband for a response. Then if they don’t like what I have to say, they try to work on Ahnna.

Chaz, of course, has always identified as a male, and he finally decided to do something about it. There is nothing wrong with that. If I felt strongly about it, I’m sure I would have considered it, too. I didn’t, and that’s just my path. He did, and that’s his path. Because of his celebrity, he is able to speak for a community that really needs advocates and spokespeople. There is a divine order in all things, and that is now part of his path, too.

I wish Chaz and everyone else well who walk the difficult path of needing to express themselves in a way that seems at odds with their body. They are all teachers, here to remind us that our body is just a car, after all.